In the Empty Tomb

The Garden Tomb, in Jerusalem.

Empty.

This tomb is empty–

No trace of Him who lay here,

Once a sacrifice for us.

No evidence meets the eye,

And the mind alone

Cannot comprehend.

We were not here.

We did not see.

How do we know

That He lay in death,

Then rose again?

In the empty tomb,

The heart is full.

It sees what Spirit tells,

It knows what Spirit shares.

It understands

What it knew before:

He came for this–

To leave the tomb,

To counter death,

To give us life.

In the empty tomb,

We find full life.

,

Why Look for Blemishes?

On an impulse, I bought a rose for my wife from one of those supermarket displays because I thought the most beautiful woman I know ought to have a rose that day.

But after she put it in a vase at home, I looked closely and found it was not perfect. It irked me that the rose had blemishes. I looked closer. Yes, there was one there, and there, and there. For a moment I regretted buying it.

But the truth was that from a normal viewing distance, those blemishes were hard to see, and the rose brought some brightness and warmth to our kitchen table on a day when the temperature outside was well below freezing and the snow on the ground said spring is still a good way off.

Why do we focus so much on imperfections and overlook the whole picture? There are plenty of imperfections in our lives and in the people around us. If we look for imperfections, we will surely find them.

There is much talk today about “microaggressions.” This seemingly refers to things that people say or do, intentionally or unintentionally, that we could potentially see as slights or insults. If we look for those, we will certainly find them. 

But why spend our time looking for those? 

If we make a habit of looking for and cataloging every small thing that might be categorized as aggression—especially the ones when people say hurtful things unknowingly—we may damage or lose valuable relationships. And we may satisfy the cravings for power in the people who deliberately try to hurt us. I know this from experience. 

My hands are not like yours. I have a very visible birth defect that draws attention. Children stare and may say things like, “Your hands are weird!” Adults glance at my hands when they think I won’t notice. Some talk to me slowly and carefully as though I might also be mentally deficient. If I were to let those things bother me, I would be constantly upset. I simply have to deal with the fact I am not like what others consider “normal.” (Few realize that this is normal to me.)

In grade school and junior high, I was bullied by people who called me names or made hurtful comments about me because I was different. I was jumped more than once by boys my age who took turns punching me, trying to make me fight back when they knew I couldn’t make a fist. I was always the last one chosen for any sports team in P.E. class because the other boys believed I wouldn’t be able to handle the game. But I was raised by a wise widowed mother who knew what I would face in life and taught me early on to deal with my challenges. I found that I could learn to do anything others can do.

I learned that you give bullies and toxic people a victory when you respond to their taunts. I like the old saying that the best revenge is living well. If you show them that their deliberate nastiness cannot control your behavior, they lose their power over you.

If someone has said something unintentionally that you find hurtful or demeaning, you may be able to educate them—to help them see why those words hurt. But I can almost guarantee that if you respond in anger, you will not feel better, and anger, even justifiable, rarely improves our ability to build healthy relationships.

When I was a senior in high school, I turned my back on one of my best friends because he told me that something I did was hypocritical. It took me years to realize a that first, he was right about me, though I didn’t want to see it, and second, both my life and his were less rich because I threw away a friendship.

I am an imperfect, flawed person. I have spent a lifetime struggling with some personal weaknesses that I hate. But I manage to do some good things too. As a person of faith, I have learned I do better at repentance and spiritual growth when I: (1) try to focus on doing more of the good things; (2) ask forgiveness from God and the people I may have wronged; and (3), don’t spend a lot of time replaying in my mind all the wrong and tawdry things I do. My life goes better when I concentrate instead on replacing those ugly things with more of the good.

I’m also happier when I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the things others may have done that I didn’t like. I don’t always have to pay attention to people who are deliberately trying to be toxic—those angry or damaged individuals who so desperately want to see my response.

I’m trying to get better at seeing the good in other people before I simply discard them. I’m trying to look at each individual as another child of God who is of great worth to Him even though that person might do things I wish they wouldn’t.

That rose I gave to my wife was not perfect. But as I sit here looking at it across the table, it looks pretty good from this distance. It is a work of heavenly design, a gift of beauty from our Heavenly Father to His children in a world that is not perfect. 

Why should I focus on the flower’s flaws when I can enjoy the 90 percent that is perfect?

I

“My Kind of People”

This expression of gratitude for blessings of freedom–no matter how flawed and in need of change our country may be–is impressive.

If you want to know what it’s like to feel conspicuous, try being the only white person in a small room in an old slave prison in Ghana watching a movie about the history and evils of slavery. When the movie ended and the lights came up, I could feel eyes staring at me, wondering what I was doing there.

I wanted to say out loud, “It was ugly, it was evil, it should never have happened.” It was horrifying and saddening to see in that place what people were willing to do to other human beings. Even some Africans had contributed to the slave trade, helping trap and transport people of other tribes.

My visit in Ghana, more than a quarter of a century ago now, was delightful, really. I was visiting among people who shared my faith, people who hoped and dreamed of the same kind of peace and unity among men and women on this earth that I hope for. I truly forgot there was any difference between us until I reached out to shake someone’s hand and noticed the contrast in our skin tones. I believe there was no such contrast in our hearts.

A large part of the discord in our society today seems to come because we have forgotten how to deal with people as they are in their hearts. We insist on categorizing everyone, usually based on some particular interest or ethnic group: Mexican American, African-American, Asian-American, and other hyphenates; liberal or conservative; LGBTQ or straight (as though everyone who is not LGBTQ can be classified in just one category); young or senior citizen; “able” or “differently abled.” In some people’s minds, my very obvious birth defect would put me in that last category.

I hate being categorized.

I was born different in body, but I am not “handicapped” and I do not have a disability. I am religiously and socially conservative, but I can gladly work with and respect people whose experiences and background have led them to see social problems differently. I am not LGBTQ, but I do not hate or fear those who are, as the pejorative, convenient labels homophobic and transphobic suggest. I wish LBGTQ people peace, happiness, and all the achievement they seek in this life. I am not their enemy.

And this suggests the damage that categorizing people according to groups does in our society; it casts people who are not part of our own category as opponents, or enemies.

Site of the Topaz camp.

On a road trip a few years ago, my wife and I visited the site of the World War II Topaz internment camp for Japanese Americans, in the desert of Utah. Almost all traces of the old camp have been removed, but it is still a shameful blot on the history of this country. Japanese Americans were herded into camps because they looked different; German Americans and Italian-Americans were not bothered. Call it racism, call it hysteria, call it what you will, but at base it was a bigoted failure to see or consider what others are in their hearts. Loyal Americans were harmed by people who could not see beyond categories.

The group of people shown in the above photo, taken at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington a few years ago, are my kind of people. I have never seen them before, I don’t know who they are or where they live, but it seems we have this much in common: we love our country and the freedom it affords. People who are grateful for the freedom we enjoy are my kind of people.

Maintaining our freedom, however, will require us to be more concerned about the welfare of others than about whether those people are in our category. Any other attitude breeds divisiveness. We must aspire to be as our Savior, and other inspired teachers sent by God through the centuries, have taught: “. . . be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. . . . let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:2-3).

We will not have peace in our society until we are able to broaden our definition of “my kind of people.” We will not end contention over social and political issues until we recognize that we all fit into the same overarching category: children of God.

Can You Hear the Voice of God?

Mathew 7:7-8

Have you ever wished that God would speak to you and give you answers for the challenges in your life? Have you wondered why He doesn’t talk to you?

You can hear His voice in your own life. Chances are that He has talked to you many times, but you may not have been listening for the right things. You have to be prepared to listen and accept His will, and to receive His answers in the way He chooses to give them.

I have asked for answers from the Lord on problems ranging from a challenge to my faith or a serious physical threat to something so mundane as a plumbing problem when no help was available. I have never seen an angel in answer, or heard the voice of God speaking to me audibly. Answers have come sometimes as words in my mind, sometimes as new ideas on how to approach the problem, and sometimes from someone with greater experience who just happens to drop by in the moment of need.

I do not say this to boast. I am ashamed that I do not receive answers more often, because of my lack of faith. Sometimes I want to cry out, with the man whose son was healed by Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24; see verses 17-29.)

A loving Father in Heaven respects the autonomy, or agency, He has given us so much that He will not violate it. He never forces us to do His will. When he intervened in the life of Saul on the road to Damascus, He simply asked a question: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul received direction only after, chastened and humbled, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (See Acts 1-7.) As Saul followed the direction he received, the Lord turned him into a great prophet and teacher.

In ancient America, a young man named Alma spent his time trying to destroy Christ’s church organized among his people. As he was going about this work, an angel appeared to him to ask, “Why persecutest thou the church of God?” Alma was admonished to remember the Lord’s power to save those who have faith in Him. Then the angel commanded him: “Seek to destroy the church no more, . . . even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.” (Mosiah 27:16, Book of Mormon. See Mosiah 27:10-16.) Like Paul, Alma repented and turned to faith, and the Lord made of him a great prophet and teacher.

Both Paul and Alma chose faith. If we choose faith, we can get answers, but we have to get them the way Jesus taught. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7; emphasis mine.) We have to ask and seek His help—He will never force it on us—but when He gives it, His help will often be more generous and abundant than we could ever have imagined. It may lead to a much more healing or strengthening solution than we could ever have expected. The new ideas that come to our minds may lead to lasting changes that alter our behavior and our lives. When the Lord sends someone else to help us, both of us are strengthened.

James1:5-6

Sometimes, when answers don’t seem to come, we may need to realize, like Paul and Alma, that we are the problem. We may need to soften our hearts to accept His counsel. When we do that, He always rewards us with the same mercy and love Jesus showed to every sinner He healed.

Sometimes when answers don’t come in the way or the timeframe we want, we may need to understand that patience is required while the Lord teaches and strengthens us. I can look back over decades and see that I am more spiritually capable now of acting on His counsel than I was when, as a younger man, I wanted those answers right now. Back then, I never concerned myself much about long life, believing that the Lord’s timetable was out of my control. But in recent years, I have sometimes asked for more time to learn mortal lessons before I pass on to the next life. I need all the spiritual development I can get before earthly opportunities are past.

God, our Heavenly Father, wants to give you the answers you seek, but only rarely has He spoken to men and women on earth in person. For His mortal children in general, He gives answers through the teachings of Jesus Christ and through prophets on the earth in our day. But to us as individuals, He is glad to give answers for our own lives. We only have to ask with humility in our hearts, willing to obey His counsel, and learn how to listen in our hearts, where He speaks Spirit to spirit.

,

Life on the Moon

In South Central Idaho, there is a landscape that seems so out of this world it is called Craters of the Moon.

It is marked by broken and jagged beds of lava mixed with volcanic cinder cones and rock formations jutting up eerily from the lava plain. The rough and cratered surface of this place was used by some U.S. astronauts to train before their moon landings.

Climbing a cinder cone.

It is just one of the many outcroppings of volcanic activity on the Snake River plain in Idaho.

This might seem to be an inhospitable place for growing things because of the desert surroundings, the cold climate. Yet life thrives here. The life impulse is so strong in some of the livings things that it cannot be denied by solid rock.

The lichens that help break down the rocks, along with sagebrush, pine trees and other plant life dot the landscape, even growing out of the lava plain. Animal life is abundant. Take a hike on one of this national monument’s trails and you might find yourself following deer tracks.

The life-fostering processes at work here will seem familiar to scientists. But there might well be disagreement among observers over just how these processes were initiated and governed. For me, this place is another witness of God at work. I see the great Creator’s hand in the order and organization of an environment such as this.

There is, of course, no point in starting an argument over how Craters of the Moon came to be.

But I would invite you to consider the origins of this place, or one like it, for yourself. The United States has many areas like this where the natural world goes about its business with comparatively little interference from humans. You can find them in other countries as well.

Look at places like these and then ask yourself: On what evidence or basis can God be ruled out as the Creator? When people insist that the earth is strictly a product of some great cosmic accident, I often wonder what evidence they have that makes them say God was not involved.

I don’t have to see His own hands to see His hand at work here. In this place, it seems self-evident.

(See the video, “Life on the Moon,” on YouTube at https://youtu.be/2UqFCSK_IMA)

Last of the Summer Days

Among the sweetest and most poignant of childhood memories are those end-of-summer days, just before the time when we had to go back to school.

The loss seems almost tangible as one more golden day slips away. Those milestones mean fall is coming—the season when things die as a prelude to winter.

That may sound gloomy, but how you feel about summer slipping into fall, then slipping into winter is probably influenced by your outlook on life. I learned as a child that winter has an important purpose and is a blessing in its own way.

Yet I fight this idea in my heart even as some people revel in winter’s opportunities for outdoor recreation. I grew up largely on the Texas Gulf Coast, where the climate is much the same as in the prime vacation areas of Florida. I never really experienced winter until I was nine years old—the year my widowed mother enrolled at a university in the Mountain West, where her studies would change her life. The experience of living among the mountains changed my life.

The first harbinger of change came one afternoon in October as I walked home from school. Snowflakes fell from the sky, and I had worn only a shirt. I couldn’t wait to get in out of the cold.

I quickly learned that there could be fun in the snow, and I learned to deal with winter conditions. But secretly a part of me always longed for the warmth and sunlight of summer.

In a way our lives are like that. We can waste a lot of time longing for the return of the warmth—for the restoration of conditions we liked better.

But the cycles of the seasons are a fact of life, and it is also a fact that simply living on this earth sometimes brings conditions we would prefer not to face.

One of those is aging. As our summer passes, we slip into fall and our bodies start to grow old. Maybe we can’t hear and enjoy music the way we used to. Maybe we can’t see to sew or carve or draw or build as we used to. Maybe getting down on our knees is a decision to be considered carefully because we won’t be able to get up again without something to hold onto.

Eventually winter comes, and for many living things, life is over.

But one thing I learned about winter back when I was a boy is that the winter part of the seasonal cycle carries with it the promise of spring to follow. In the never-ending climate cycle on earth, new life will come.

Our hope for new life after death is not in some seasonal cycle, but in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In coming forth from the tomb, after being crucified, He gained the power also to bring all of humanity forth from the grave. We will live again. (See John 5:28-29, 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22; Revelation 20:6; 1 Peter 1:3.)

An ancient American prophet named Mormon wrote that those who will accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in their behalf can have hope “to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise” (Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:41). Everyone who has ever lived on this earth, no matter when or where, will be given the opportunity by God the Father to accept salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, as the last days of summer slip by and I feel fall coming on, I remember that lesson I learned long ago. Winter will inevitably come, but the promise of new life is eternal.

(Please see video, “Last of the Summer Days,” at https://youtu.be/0DDp_ld0nLE)

Light and Shadow and Truth

When I was in my twenties, I was a lot more sure of many things than I am now, decades later. I still believe in the same spiritual guideposts—God, the importance of faith to achieve true success in this life, the need to love in order to grow spiritually and intellectually. But I don’t think I understood back then all the ways that faith and love can be applied to meet the challenges of life. I’ve still got a lot to learn about that.

It’s interesting how the way we see things changes as we get more experience.

When we’re less experienced, we often see things in black and white. The black and white view can leave us with very strong impressions, but too often it misses nuance or details that give us a more complete picture.

The best of the cinematographers back in the 1930s and 1940s knew this. Watch one of the black and white classics—Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane—to see how filmmakers used light and shadow, the contrast of light and dark, to create or enhance a dramatic mood.

What do you feel when you look at the photograph above, with its contrasts deliberately enhanced?

But looking at only the black and white tones can leave out a lot.

Now look at the color version of the photograph. What do you see that you couldn’t see before? The beautiful flower that was hidden in shadow? The way that varied, multi-colored stones all contribute their distinctive strengths to the whole structure?

A lot of our attitudes are like that. Many of mine were sharply black and white when I was younger. But when we look at things only in black and white, we miss much of the nuance or detail that can help us fully understand the problem or challenge we face and its possible solutions. We don’t see the rose or the different strengths of the multi-colored stones.

Too often we can be blinded by our own biases. Sometimes they are so firmly entrenched that we can’t root them out.

Single-minded activists are especially at risk of this weakness, whether their cause is environmental, social, political, racial, or religious. Seeing only black and white, they may demand that everyone else pay as much attention to the highlighted areas as they do. They may miss details in the shadows that can lead to workable, practical solutions.

But, oh, it is so hard to give up some of our biases! I know it is for me. We are emotionally tied to them. There’s risk in letting go, for if our biases are false, then what can we safely hold onto? It requires humility and faith to accept that what we have believed is wrong, and that what we did not want to accept, or what we may never have considered before, is true.

Not long ago, my wife and I lay outdoors under the stars at night to watch a meteor shower. Our backyard was a world of black shadows, dark and darker. When you see those old color movie scenes of people outdoors in the moonlight (Maybe the cowboy and his sweetheart down by the river?), you know they’re false. We don’t see color by moonlight alone. Those scenes were shot through a dark filter in daylight or artificial light.

We need to remove the dark filters in front of our mind’s eye if we want to see the truth. We need to ask: Am I looking at this situation only in black and white?

When we look at people in these stark contrasts, comparing their actions with our own more righteous or intelligent choices, or with what we think they ought to be doing, we have a hard time seeing the full picture. Being able to see the full picture of people’s lives was what made Jesus Christ able to love the sinner while admonishing them to “sin no more.” (See John 8:3-11.)

When we’re serious about wanting to follow Jesus, we will make the effort to overcome the harsh black-or-white perspective that renders judgment based only on our own experience. We will learn to view other people and their lives through the richly hued filters of faith and love.

 It’s an effort that can take a lifetime. I know.

Why Are You So Mad?

We see the heart-breaking, smiling image of a little child who has been shot and killed in a road-rage incident.

We see airline passengers or store customers restrained or arrested because they could not discipline themselves.

We see wrathful, partisan politicians wanting to discredit or destroy someone who has the temerity to disagree with them.

We see people belittled, ridiculed, and taunted on social media when their ideas do not agree with mainstream thinking.

If you read the news each day, you quickly learn that there is a lot of anger out there. People get mad about one thing or another, and many people are mad about several things all at once.

When their anger boils over, it can lead to tragedy, injury, or loss. 

People get mad for reasons ranging from true injustice to trivial annoyances. Maybe they were beaten or robbed, they were treated unfairly because they are members of some minority group, they were cheated by somebody they trusted. Or maybe they’re just mad because their morning latte wasn’t prepared the way they like it.

Uncontrolled anger that brings tragedy and spreads venom doesn’t solve any problem. It is the rational, measured response that gets results.

Most of us will acknowledge that uncontrolled anger is not a good thing. But many people will say, “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.”

This is an excuse. You can help it. You can change. It may not be easy. Most of us, including me, face one kind of challenge or another that we need to acknowledge and deal with. This takes work. But the alternative is to live a diminished life because we won’t make the effort necessary to change.

None of us, including me, likes to acknowledge this truth. But the longer we go on avoiding it, the more we cheat our best selves.

Anger is damaging in human relationships and cultures not only for what it causes but also for what it prevents. It keeps us from making a better world.

A devil would want us to be angry all the time so that we don’t make the effort to fix what is wrong, whether it is in us or in our circumstances. A loving Father would want us to spend time instead making needed changes so He can bind up our wounds. The doctrine of Christianity is: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Other faith traditions also teach in their doctrines that controlling and eliminating our own anger gives us greater spiritual and intellectual power.

There is a lesson in modern, revealed scripture that illustrates this. In the Book of Mormon story, a family is warned by God to leave Jerusalem before the Babylonian conquest. As they wander in the wilderness, led by a prophet named Lehi, they must hunt food to survive. When the prophet’s son Nephi—evidently a principal hunter for the group—breaks his fine bow, their situation looks bleak. His brothers become angry at him, angry at their father for leading them into the wilderness, angry at God for their situation. Even Lehi, the leader, becomes discouraged and complains about their circumstances. This changes nothing.

But Nephi’s response is different. He finds some good wood, makes a new bow and arrow, then asks his father to ask God where he should go to hunt for food. God answers. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 17:18-32.) 

Nephi showed faith and willingness to act, and God responded to his need.

God knows there will setbacks in life. They are part of our mortal journey. He wants us to overcome them. But there is little He can do to help us when we’re mad and taking our anger out on the rest of the world. In that emotional state, we aren’t able to hear what He would whisper to us through His Holy Spirit.

After decades of experience in mortality, I am still learning that if I will repent of my anger and humbly ask for His help, He will speak to me in the way best suited to my needs. It may be through someone else, but He will hear and help me.

What about you? What are you so mad about? Would you like help with your problem, or do you just want to go on pouting about it? Are you willing to change?

Which Flower Is the Most Beautiful?

My wife loves flowers. It’s a struggle to maintain a garden in the area where we live, with its short growing season, the hardy, fast-growing weeds, along with deer and other critters who like to dine on plants at her expense. But outside our door every morning, her flowers offer a day-starting burst of beauty.

It’s hard to decide which are more beautiful: Lilies? Irises? Columbine? It’s impossible to judge between them. I joke that I have a nodding acquaintance with flowers; I can’t tell you all about them, their names, their characteristics, but I can appreciate the beauty of every one of them.

My appreciation for flowers started early because both of my grandmothers loved flowers. Like others of their generation, they grew things they could eat, but they had to have flowers as well—definitely roses, but also irises, daisies, hollyhocks, and others.

Living in semitropical areas of the world introduced me to a whole different range of flowering plants. It convinced me that there is far more beauty in this world than I will ever have the opportunity to experience personally.

Some hardy flowers can be found almost everywhere. Sunflowers, growing in the harshest of environments, constantly turn their faces to the sun anyway.

Some flowers are unwelcome, and I don’t always understand why. Who was it that declared dandelions are weeds and must be eradicated? I understand that they’re pushy and want to take over too much space. That can’t be allowed. But have you ever studied the beautiful, divinely designed structure of their yellow faces?

Jesus used flowers to make a point about how much Heavenly Father cares for all His children, in one of my favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:28-33. “. . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; . . . Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

“. . . If God so clothe the grass of the field, . . . shall he not much more clothe you, o ye of little faith? . . .

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all of these things shall be added unto you.”

The magnificence of His flowers shows the love and care He put into their creation, but He cares even more diligently and tenderly for us, His children.

Do we appreciate His other children as much as we do His flowers?

There are powerful forces in the world today that work to divide us. Most of us see ourselves first as members of ethnic, gender, social, political or economic groups, before we think of ourselves as children of God.

That is the devil’s work. Jesus did not think of people in terms of divisions that separated them. In fact, He often condemned those who sought to put people in different classes. When we ask that the needs of our class or group be served first, we may be asking that something be taken away from the rest of humanity.

In His Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: . . . the meek: . . . they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: . . . the merciful: . . . the pure in heart: . . . the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:3-9). He made no distinction as to class, color, wealth, or popularity. He pronounced blessings on those who sought the things they saw in His divine example.

Modern revealed scripture offers this insight on our Redeemer’s loving generosity toward mortals on this earth: “he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . and all are alike unto God” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33).

The world would be better if we all stopped looking at people as members of ethnic, gender, social, or political groups and began looking at them as children of God with equal opportunity to come unto Him.

In the eyes of the world, every flower is not clothed the same. But in His eyes, there is beauty and value in every one.

Cheating Themselves?

A few days ago in reading the news, I came across one of those articles listing tweets about marriage that are supposed to be humorous. One said something like this: “It’s strange—on the first  date you pick a side of the bed and that’s where you’ll be for the rest of your life.” 

Really? On the first date? And that’s funny? 

I come of a generation that was taught sex is to be reserved for marriage. The current generation may see things differently, of course, but I believe that in making sex just another recreational social activity, they are cheating themselves out of blessings that God meant for His beloved children to have in a marriage relationship. 

One of the tenets of my faith is that Heavenly Father meant for marriage to be only between a man and a woman because a loving, committed husband and wife can complement and build each other in ways that are not possible through any other relationship. 

When God gave Adam and Eve to each other as companions in the Garden of Eden, Adam said that “a man shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). That “cleaving” means more than just sharing the same bed. It means they each become the most important person in the world for the other. 

Neither the man nor the woman is more important in the relationship, and neither is to be a dictator. In my opinion, any man who says he loves a woman but wants to dictate how she may live does not understand what love is and does not deserve to be a husband. 

It seems to me that God did not mean a sexual relationship to be only for the purpose of procreation. It can be very pleasurable and should be enjoyed with the person to whom you are committed in marriage. But I believe there are good reasons that our Heavenly Father wants us to have sexual relationships only within marriage. Here are two.  

First, sexual intercourse is the means He has designed to create mortal bodies so that the spirit children who are living with Him now may have the opportunity to come live on earth. The power to create bodies for them is not a gift we should toy with idly. Every child of God who comes to live as a mortal on earth deserves two loving parents who are willing to cleave to each other and no one else. 

Second, being “one flesh” means more than just a sexual relationship. Your wife or husband should be the person you treasure above anyone else, through all of the hard times as well as the good, the person whose welfare means more to you than even your own. Sex is a loving gift that you give to that one person. 

I’ve heard people say that you have to find out before you marry if the two of you are “compatible.” I’ve been married for 53 years. You don’t find out about compatibility in bed. Compatibility is an excuse that some people use to skip the formal commitment that should come before a sexual relationship. Skipping over that commitment is like saying to someone, “Sure, I think you can satisfy me physically—but I don’t care very much about the rest of you or your hopes and dreams.” 

You don’t build that kind of relationship by choosing a side of the bed. You build it by cleaving to each other as you do to no one else in this world. 

People who use sex as some kind of social coin to buy intimacy are cheating themselves. They may never know the full sweetness of sharing loving intimacy with the one person who means everything to them.